Welcome back to the Drag & Drop Show!
This week we have a pretty exciting episode for you because we are taking a dive into a world that more and more people are interested in: the cannabis community.
Our guest, Janelle Powell, is the Director of Marketing at Jadeo, Canada’s leading cannabis social network for people who are interested in getting quality information on products, socializing and actually growing the plant.
In Canada, the consumption of cannabis for medical purposes became legal on July 30, 2001, and this act paved the way for the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes. However, it took another 16 years until the Federal Government announced that the use of recreational cannabis would no longer violate criminal law (Oct. 17 2018).
Hit play or keep on scrolling to discover Janelle’s perspective on how to create a social platform for a community that has, until a while ago, been mostly in the shadows.
Now, let’s drag and drop some ideas from this episode.
- When emerging in the recently legalized cannabis market, it is vital to take into consideration that education must be a major component of your marketing strategy.
- Authenticity is a key factor when starting to advertise for a market that is brand-new, such as the cannabis one.
- Before setting up your marketing campaigns, it’s really important to do your research thoroughly for establishing authenticity within a community that has, until recently, operated illicitly.
- Don’t forget to always consult with your customers, don’t be afraid to conduct surveys in order to find out what your consumers want.
- An authentic brand that focuses on the community around their products and services has more chances to succeed in business.
John Biggs: Welcome back to the Bannersnack podcast. I’m John Biggs, and I’m here with Janelle Powell. She’s the Director of Marketing at Jadeo, which is a cannabis + community. I need you to explain what’s going on over at this website.
Janelle Powell: Absolutely. Jadeo.co is essentially a cannabis community, to be more specific. What we’ve done is we created a digital community for people who are curious about cannabis, who are avid cannabis users, medical users, or they just have burning questions. In a post-legalization world in Canada, there’s still a lot of stigmas that are associated with cannabis, and a lot of people still feel a little bit insecure about publicly asking questions or sharing their experiences. So we wanted to create a safe online space where, you know, everybody who’s here, they’re interested, they have a positive outlook on being educated and hearing about other people’s experiences. It’s that safe online space that’s also an educational resource.
John Biggs: Okay. So, you guys started up in Canada. Is that right?
Janelle Powell: Yes.
John Biggs: That’s going to be an interesting thing. For the purposes of the podcast, I think the biggest question is, how do you market something that’s so brand new? How do you tell that story to a brand new audience who might be familiar only with it as some kind of illicit thing that you do out in the woods or whatever, where you have to pay some guy to get it, to now, when you go down to a store, and you pick it up. How do you change people’s minds about that?
Janelle Powell: It’s a very interesting task as a marketer. So, the first thing to note is that here in Canada, legislation restricts a lot of what we can say and what we can visually use in our advertising (campaigns) around cannabis. For instance, we can’t use certain images, we can’t make certain claims, we can’t even use certain words. It is a pretty large task for a marketer to begin with. And then, what you mentioned is true, there’s still a lot of stigma since a lot of people still think of cannabis as an illicit drug, so for us, the big thing was education.
The advertising and the marketing that we do are rooted in education.
It’s letting people know that “No, it’s no longer this thing,” like you said, that you go up in the woods to get. Think about how using research-based facts on how it’s being used for PTSD, how it’s being used for anxiety, and in a lot of different treatments methods, and then even recreationally, how different people can approach it, educating people about how to safely use it, things that you shouldn’t do, things that you can do, so it’s really rooted in education.
As opposed to being like, “Hey, go out and buy cannabis”, it’s more about, “Hey this is what cannabis is, this is the truth, and this is kind of what you need to know and these are like the safety measures,” etc.
And moreover, we are a community where people can come and ask questions and get answers, so we really focus on that aspect where you don’t have to feel embarrassed if you don’t know, or you don’t have to feel embarrassed if you actually want to know, or you use it, or it’s your first time or anything like that. So we focus on education and community.
John Biggs: Okay. And what’s that community looking for?
Janelle Powell: We are looking for a variety of things. One of the things we are looking for are people who are genuinely curious. You’ve heard about this cannabis thing, but you don’t really know what it is or how to use it, or what is it for? So, we want those curious people to come in and ask questions.
But then we’re looking for avid users, people who use it on a regular basis so that they can give their first-hand experience. What they did wrong, because everybody has a horror story, what’s the safety measures, the do’s and the don’ts, and we also want brands in there. We want brands to come on and tell us about what they’re doing, what products they have in the works, what tips they have for their products? So it’s a variety of different consumers that we’re looking to attract to the platform, to create this atmosphere where you can ask questions, you can provide answers, and you can get informative educational resources.
John Biggs: One of the things that the audience is interested in is advertising this stuff. How do you advertise something that’s un-advertisable according to the law, what kind of things do you have to do to figure out how to sell this stuff?
Janelle Powell: That’s a great question. You technically can advertise, but yes, there are a lot of restrictions, so digital ads are one way to do it, you just have to be very cautious about your language. On Jadeo, we actually offer digital ads to cannabis brands. So whether you are an accessory brand or you actually sell cannabis in it of itself, we offer advertising opportunities. But also we utilize platforms like Google, Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and things like that. There are platforms that you can use to advertise, so we use digital ads. And we use Bannersnack, of course, to design some of our digital ads, so the possibilities are out there.
As a marketer in the cannabis industry, you definitely have to think outside of the box to get your message across without violating any laws.
John Biggs: How do you break into a brand new industry like this? What are some of the things that folks who might be interested in joining up, or marketing to folks who are into cannabis, what should they do?
Janelle Powell: The big thing with cannabis is, it only began to legalize, I mean, in Canada and worldwide recently, but there is a very large community that has been in existence for years. So, when you are looking to break into the industry, you really have to tap into that community. And the cannabis community welcomes brands and stuff like that, but they look for authenticity, and they look for people who are interested in the cause, and they look for people who are genuinely interested in the community.
I think as a new brand coming into the industry you want to center your marketing around being an authentic brand that cares about the cannabis community and is looking to promote a positive image and education.
Because that’s what consumers are rooted in, and that’s what they’re looking for. We have to remember the active cannabis community is made of people who have been advocating for cannabis for decades.
So, they don’t want a brand that comes in and just profits off their backs, right? They’re looking for brands that are authentic, that care about the community, and genuinely want to advance cannabis in the long run. So, I think that the authentic factor, like really caring about the community and presenting that, having a marketing deep-rooted in that aspect is really important.
John Biggs: How do you ensure that you are authentic? How do you ensure that you don’t insult a community?
Janelle Powell: I think this is where you do your research, because one of the things that I’ve seen as a marketer in this industry, is a lot of social posts that try to be educational, but the information that they’re putting out there isn’t rooted in any sort of fact. Then it comes across as disingenuous because you want to be this brand, and you’re trying to promote information, but you’re not even fact-checking.
Really doing that research and understanding cannabis and its users is important because, to be quite honest, there are a lot of people in the industry that haven’t done their homework.
So then when conversations arise, marketing campaigns get launched, a lot of it just comes across as not being real, not being true, so I think you should be speaking to consumers. Do your research. Do surveys. Find out what people want. Understand how people are using cannabis. Understand the burning questions that they have, what they want, and then take that step.
A lot of people are skipping that step, and it comes across as the brand’s really inauthentic and just looking to make a quick dollar. And I know everybody, at the end of the day, is trying to make a dollar, but when you’re trying to reach consumers, everybody’s looking for something and, especially in this day and age where authenticity and what a brand represents means so much more than it ever has, you have to make sure you’re taking the right steps to represent that.
John Biggs: Okay. I guess that’s another question. What kind of visuals, what kind of ideas do you need to create in order to engender that trust? I mean, signing up and even asking questions about cannabis might be scary for some people, how do you engender that trust visually?
Janelle Powell: That’s a great question. What we try to do is, you know how a lot of times when people think about cannabis and they think about marketing, their mind automatically goes to the stereotypical stoner image. And while that does have a following and there’s nothing wrong with the stoner image, we try to approach it by showing that a cannabis smoker isn’t necessarily that person on the couch who doesn’t get up all day and just sits there eating chips.
We have cannabis users who are CEOs, Directors of Marketing, and professionals, and moms, and dads, so we try to give it more of a, I don’t want to say classy, but just more of a streamlined image where we aren’t personifying negative aspects of it. Also, for a lot of the imagery, for instance, in Canada, we’re not allowed to use animation, we’re not allowed to use animals, we’re not allowed to use people. It really restricts what you can do with imagery, so we like to play around with greenery. Cannabis is a natural plant, so, how does that representation of it as a natural plant as opposed to a drug really brings about trust in the sense that you’re representing it for what it is and not a stereotype.
John Biggs: Okay, interesting. Are you allowed to actually show the leaf or do you have to show a flower or whatever?
Janelle Powell: That one’s a little bit like toeing the line. I mean, it’s one of those things where it really depends on the messaging.
John Biggs: How much is this industry changing? How much has it changed since you started working in it? Because it seems like the laws are changing almost every day.
Janelle Powell: So, it’s changed a little bit. I think the massive changes will come further down the line. I mean we can compare it to something else, like alcohol, or anything like that where they come out being really strict initially. Because when you look at Canada and the laws, they legalized cannabis initially with the hope to protect the youth. There are a lot of strict laws with that in mind, and we think that as time goes along, it will start to loosen up a little bit, so we can do a little bit more with advertising and marketing. For now, nothing has changed on that front, but what’s been interesting to see is how people’s perceptions are starting to change.
A lot of people who are hardcore NO about cannabis and who saw it as an illicit drug, with a lot of the marketing and the education that’s gone out over the past year and two months, are now starting to ask more questions and be more curious, and not looking at it as “Oh no, this is a bad thing, it’s an illicit drug, don’t touch it.”
I think a lot of the marketing efforts from the various brands over the past year, and even the government over the past year and two months, are starting to make a difference in public perception. But in terms of changes within the marketing regulations, there haven’t been any as of yet, but we’re anticipating that will happen within the next two years or so.
John Biggs: Okay, what is your office look like? Is it just a bunch of cannabis plants and edibles, and you’re all just relaxing and, cause that sounds actually like a lot of fun?
Janelle Powell: Interestingly enough, at Jadeo, we work remotely.
John Biggs: Okay.
Janelle Powell: We all work out of our own home offices, but we are obviously a pro-cannabis company, so we recognize that cannabis can potentially help with things like creativity, and help you get through your day. We definitely promote it; obviously, you have to use it within reason, especially during your workday. It can’t be like “I’m just going to use some cannabis and not do my work.” So we definitely are a pro-cannabis environment, and I’m sure some of us do grow, so…
John Biggs: Well, like the Mad Men guys were allowed to go and have 15 martinis during lunch, I can’t imagine you guys can’t have a gummy or whatever.
Janelle Powell: Right, no, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to show, that cannabis doesn’t necessarily mean “Oh my gosh, I’m going to smoke a joint and then I’m useless for the rest of the day”. That’s absolutely not what it’s like; you can have a little bit, and for some people, like myself, it helps with creativity. So you take a break, and you have a little bit of cannabis, and it sparks your creativity, and you work for hours on end because now it helps you with that.
And we all are about what we preach, we have a community that’s about educating about cannabis and preaching its positive aspects, and we live that life, so there’s no shame in it. Some of my coworkers are actually growing plants, and that’s awesome. I love hearing about these stories, so we definitely are a pro-cannabis company.
John Biggs: Wonderful, wonderful. Where can people find out more about what you guys are working on?
Janelle Powell: They can head to Jadeo.co, so www.jadeo.co. That is our main website, so our public-facing website, which is an online community for the general public. You can sign up to become a member, ask questions, make new friends, network. It’s there for you to use and it’s totally free of cost. And we are also working on an educational portal for large organizations, that they can subscribe to for free, and they can use it to educate their large workforce on cannabis or their members. So we have a few things going on right now, and it’s really exciting to see what’s coming in the future.
John Biggs: All right, very, very cool. Thank you for joining us on the podcast. This has been a lot of fun.
Janelle Powell: Thank you, I loved it!
John Biggs: Thanks for listening, we’ll be back shortly with another great episode talking to another very creative person.
We hope that you enjoyed this truthful conversation about what it’s like to grow a social platform on a hot topic such as cannabis, and we couldn’t agree more with Janelle on the ideas of education through marketing campaigns, thorough research for the customers and of course, never forgetting to be authentic in bonding with your community.
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The Drag & Drop Show is an original series created by Bannersnack.